Allow Capitalism to rise to its full natural potential - Infuse mastery in self, team and organizational DNA
We are at a historic and momentous socioeconomic inflection point where remarkable progress and deep crisis have converged to create an uncertain scenario. Free market capitalism has resulted in unprecedented growth and prosperity while at the same time took a heavy toll on the social and ecological balance. In reality though, all socioeconomic wellness indicators point to the fact that things have been getting a lot better. This could be the greatest opportunity in recorded history for democracy, capitalism and human innovation to evolve and flourish to their highest natural potential.
Business organizations can lead the way in this transformation by transcending the traditional motivational practices based on security, fear, intimidation, self-centered ambition and greed and appealing to the deep human drive for excellence, mastery, meaning and yearning to satisfy the whole being – intellect, heart and spirit. This hack presents a model integrating pioneering business practices with cutting edge work in neural science, human psychology and human potential. By bringing practical rigor and execution discipline to the “soft” qualities of human dimension, we can dramatically impact organizational effectiveness and the execution of fundamental business functions.
“We seem to be beautifully equipped to deal with an environment that no longer exists.” Our socioeconomic processes, reward systems and methods to motivate and inspire performance are based on control, compliance, intimidation, fear, greed, growth and achievement at any cost. This might still work for some organizations but will not elicit maximum engagement and productivity from those who like to be on the cutting edge and be the very best. People in this heightened state of awareness get inspired by meaning, purpose and mastery. This changes the rules of the game in business, economy and in politics. This explains why we are facing a socioeconomic crisis in spite of making outstanding progress in the past 100 plus years. The model that rewards greed and doesn’t penalize conflict is taking us to the brink of disaster and the growth of collective awareness, aspiration and consciousness offers us hope for an extraordinary and purposeful growth.
These challenges we are facing are not new and sudden developments. They appear worse than before because of the human nature of latching on to negative news and glorifying the past by selectively picking information. In an advanced democratic society like ours, we cannot afford to play victims. The problem is not merely a selfish politician or a greedy banker or businessman; it is the collective will and aspiration of the people. We did not have opportunities and temptations for financial fraud and greed at this scale in the past. Even the political divisiveness we are witnessing is not new. In fact our wise founding fathers understood this aspect of human nature (picking either or ideology) very well and setup the two-party system with appropriate checks and balances.
Our challenges are being further amplified because of the transparency that is possible due to technology innovation. We are also demanding accountability and holding ourselves and our leadership to higher standards. We want economic prosperity without collateral damage, such as stressful work place, hurting the environment and the community; we want to create shareholder value without stifling creativity, innovation and employee engagement. We are at a stage in our history where this reality is dawning upon a larger percentage of our country’s population than ever before. Typically this happens because of the convergence of two forces: (1) Existing systems begin to crack and show signs of failing (2) We the people (the collective consciousness) get more evolved and are unwilling to put up with incomplete, band aid solutions.
The current socio-economic crisis is forcing us to take a hard look at our accepted models and so is the rise in human consciousness. Both trends are converging to awaken us to the fact that a more humanistic, inclusive and conscious approach to growing business (economy) and resolving social, political and ecological conflicts is the way to go forward.
Please read below for detailed explanation of the problem
Insights on current socioeconomic scenario
Many well-meaning and well intentioned professionals and people from all walks of life are grappling with some critical questions. I certainly have.
- Where are we headed as a country and world?
- Is our capitalist economic model fine the way it is or does it need evolving and tweaking?
- Where are all the good leaders? What would enlightened leadership look like at this time?
- Is government the problem or the solution?
- How well are our business organizations being run?
- Can business organizations and business leadership be models for good governance or the way we run our business organizations also contribute to the crisis we are facing?
- Is our political system in Washington broken? How can we come out of the socioeconomic crisis and political partisanship and gridlock?
I am afraid I do not agree with general and simplistic victim conclusions which sound something like this:
- Things used to be a lot better. We are getting more violent and greedy, less tolerant, and our moral and ethical values have degraded.
- Businesses, corporations and their leaders are selfish and greedy. We cannot trust them.
- Politicians cannot be trusted either, let’s vote out the incumbents and bring in fresh blood.
I do not subscribe to the “sweeping generalization” viewpoint that there has been degradation in ethics and moral values in general and business in particular. Sure we are facing serious challenges which if not resolved could have catastrophic consequences. The current situation in my view is a lot more complex and not as simplistic or black and white. This socioeconomic crisis is not a sudden development based on our recent excesses alone but is a culmination of behavior that is becoming even more obvious now because of increased transparency and use of sophisticated technological tools. We did not have opportunities and temptations for financial fraud and greed at this scale in the past. In fact our awareness now has increased, tolerance for misdemeanors has gone down and our expectation from business leadership is much higher than it used to be. It is no longer sufficient for business leadership to demonstrate financial success alone. Solid business performance, financial success and enhancing shareholder value are minimum requirements. The expectation is to achieve these benchmarks by demonstrating high moral and ethical values without compromising on honesty and integrity and the wellbeing of all other stakeholders. Let me offer an alternative viewpoint and explore this possibility. Following is my take:
- Life used to be simpler, not necessarily better! These challenges appear worse than before because of the human nature of latching on to negative news and glorifying the past by selectively picking information. Most socioeconomic and business indicators such as social inclusiveness and harmony, wealth creation, productivity, health and wellness suggest that we are much better off now than ever before. Can we overcome the crisis and get significantly better? Absolutely!
- In the political arena, the divisiveness and ideological differences that we are witnessing is not new. It is the culmination of a pattern and trend that has always been there. In fact our wise founding fathers understood this aspect of human nature (picking either or ideology) very well and setup the two-party system with appropriate checks and balances.
- Our challenges are being further amplified because of the transparency that is possible due to technology innovation. We are also demanding accountability and holding ourselves and our leadership to higher standards. We want economic prosperity without collateral damage, such as stressful work environment, hurting the environment and the community; we want to create shareholder value without stifling creativity, innovation and employee engagement.
In an advanced democratic society like ours, we cannot afford to play victims. We have to recognize and acknowledge, however hard it may be, that we have directly or indirectly contributed to the problems that we are facing and we have to participate in resolving them. To truly become part of the solution we have to own the problem. Our political and business leaders are a true reflection of who we are collectively as a society. We have politicians and business leaders with integrity and ethics across the spectrum from very strong to weak. Now if we are honest to ourselves, don’t we see the same behavior pattern in the families, societies and organizations that we are a part of? So the problem is not merely a selfish politician or a greedy banker or businessman, it is the collective will and aspiration of the people.
We are at a stage in our history where this reality is dawning upon a larger percentage of our country’s population than ever before. Typically this happens because of the convergence of two forces: (1) Existing systems begin to crack and show signs of failing (2) We the people (the collective consciousness) get more evolved and are unwilling to put up with incomplete, band aid solutions.
Tectonic Shift and Historic Inflection Point: Memorable convergence of evolutionary and destructive forces
There is a tectonic socioeconomic shift taking place reflecting the natural evolution of human needs, human behavior and human consciousness best explained by my modified version of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs from the basic to the highest level (#4 has been added):
- Livelihood, Security, Money - Security, Stability
- Sense of Belonging, Status and Esteem - Prestige, Achievement
- Participation, Stake in the results
- Responsibility, Achievement
- Self-Actualized State - Purpose, Mastery
- Personal growth and fulfillment
- Deep desire for service and universal wellbeing
- Transcendence State – helping others to self-actualize
With improved economic prosperity and individual freedom in the last 100 plus years, a significant size of population in the United States and other developed (some developing) countries has been gradually moving and actively seeking to move to the Self Actualized state. This influential group of concerned citizens spends a generous amount of time and money towards personal growth and fulfillment. They are deeply concerned about global issues that undermine peace and well-being and are actively engaged in helping resolve them. Examples of these global issues: Energy Crisis, Quality and Cost effective Healthcare, HIV/AIDS, Employment Insecurity, Social Inequity, Extremism and Terrorism, Global Warming, Ecological Imbalance. These people from all walks of life are actively participating through financial contribution and voluntary efforts towards alleviating these serious issues. They are also working on their personal (emotional and spiritual) development to bring more peace and contentment in their own lives.
See slides #8 and #9 in the attached PowerPoint.
I call this shift in consciousness a spiritual awakening, a genuine desire to “do good” and contribute towards personal and universal wellbeing. This is also changing our life style and our buying patterns which have an impact on the economy, our relationships and our notions and practices of good health and diet. While it is not always necessary (there are exceptions to this rule) to experience spiritual awakening after Material and Emotional needs are met, it certainly helps that there has been a steady growth in economic prosperity, the current global financial crisis notwithstanding. In fact the global crisis is enabling us to revisit our economic and business valuation models and our sense of priorities and the keys to purposeful and meaningful life.
This shift has been predicted by some of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Einstein lamented more than 50 years ago, “It has become appalling obvious that our technology has exceeded our consciousness.” Jonas Salk talked about the impending shift from “Epoch A” (Survival & Competition) to “Epoch B” (Collaboration & Meaning). More recently Eckhart Tolle said, “The dysfunction of the collective Ego (greed, conflict) is taking us to the brink of disaster and the growth of Collective Consciousness offers us hope and potential for extraordinary and purposeful growth.”
The economic and financial models that we are utilizing today do not fully take in to account the factors that motivate and inspire people to give their best and to pursue higher states of consciousness. As a wise person said, “We seem to be beautifully equipped to deal with an environment that no longer exists.” Our processes, reward systems and methods to motivate and inspire performance are based on Level #2, which might still work for some organizations but will not elicit maximum engagement and productivity from those who like to be on the cutting edge and be the very best (Level #3). For people in Level #3, the professional work and career has to help accelerate their march towards self-actualized state. This changes the rules of the game in business, economy and in politics. The old model of operational structures and reward system was based on control, compliance, intimidation, fear, greed, growth and achievement at any cost. The new requirement is purpose and fulfillment. In this heightened state of awareness, we get inspired by meaning and not as motivated by fear and greed. This explains why we are facing a socioeconomic crisis in spite of making outstanding progress in three major areas of our collective lives.
Social: We made remarkable progress in becoming a free, diverse and inclusive society. Democracy continues to flourish with increased transparency and demand for accountability from the highest office. At the same time, the political gridlock and divisive tactics have made it extremely difficult to deal with serious challenges such as economy, healthcare, social programs, environment and foreign policy.
Macro economy: Free market capitalism has resulted in unprecedented growth and prosperity. Wealth is distributed among a larger population affording material comforts that could previously be only dreamt of. On the other hand this growth has been characterized by cycles of boom and bust and took a heavy toll on social (income inequality) and ecological balance. We are now in a great recession questioning the viability and future course of our capitalistic model.
Business: We experienced significant increase in efficiency, productivity and ability to scale growth. We made rapid strides in technological innovation but human innovation has lagged behind. Consider the engagement and execution challenge*: Only 33% of the workforce is truly engaged, 49% not engaged and 18% is actively disengaged. Less than 25% of employees work at full potential and 50% do only what is necessary to keep their jobs. 55% experience high levels of stress with symptoms of extreme fatigue and the feeling of being out of control, 42% experience constant but manageable stress. 85% of organizations fail to execute, 80% of projects fail and 75% of mergers and acquisitions fail.
The model that rewards greed and doesn’t penalize conflict is taking us to the brink of disaster and the growth of collective awareness, aspiration and consciousness offers us hope for an extraordinary and purposeful growth. We are at a historic and momentous inflection point in the evolution of our country and the world, where remarkable progress and deep crisis have converged to create an uncertain scenario. We have a situation where the consequence of not transforming has potentially tragic implications and participating in the shift provides us great opportunity, perhaps the best ever in recorded human history. At no other time have two powerful opposing forces of creative evolution and destruction come together so forcefully and are balanced so perilously to tip the direction either way.
Having said that, what we are experiencing now is perhaps only a bump in the road to a long journey of evolutionary progress. While we are undoubtedly facing some serious socioeconomic and business challenges, we need not be overly fearful and pessimistic but view them in the overall context with a balanced perspective.
In reality, things have been getting a lot better in the past 50 to 100 years:
- Significant social improvement in tolerance and diversity. This is the most peaceful time ever in human history. Average human life span increased 2X.
- Rising economic prosperity. Poverty declined more in the past 50 years than in previous 500 years. Average per capita income increased 3X. Many of the poor in America and certainly all of the middle class have luxuries the robber barons could only dream of.
- Business growth, efficiency and productivity have gone up remarkably.
This critical inflection point could be the gateway to democracy, capitalism and human innovation evolving and flourishing to their highest natural potential.
- Democracy: Social and political institutions rise to the highest level of democracy in terms of openness, transparency and effectiveness.
- Capitalism: Free market forces and globalization help capitalism to rise to its full natural possibility.
- Human innovation and creativity is allowed to rise to its highest capability through enlightened leadership in business organizations.
Since leadership effectiveness in organizations is determined by employee engagement and productivity – it is critical to understand what inspires employee engagement and productivity and individual fulfillment. Until recently, most leaders and organizations have relied heavily on IQ to solve business challenges. Then we learnt about EQ (Emotional Intelligence). While we now appreciate the role of emotional and social development, we still do not have a good understanding of how visceral and self-mastery skills help us in enhancing leadership effectiveness and organizational execution.
Now we need leaders and leadership teams who have high IQ, EQ and a deeper self-awareness and understanding of “human dimension.” These folks are not only passionate, driven, analytical and accountable. They also possess additional qualities of mastery and team collaboration and the ability to simultaneously exhibit characteristics such as empathy, humility, generosity, compassion and unconditional love. These leaders are not only well trained and experienced in Business strategy, execution and operations but are adept at connecting at a deeper level and inspiring teams and organizations to superior performance. They integrate best practices in business with mastery.
Human beings including employees of business organizations are holistic creations and have what I call Material (#1), Emotional (#2) and Spiritual (#3, #4) needs and drivers. Employee engagement, productivity and hence business performance is connected to satisfying these needs. Highest level of performance can be inspired by leaders and organizations that create and nurture an environment to pursue these requirements. So in summary, the current socio-economic crisis is forcing us to take a hard look at our accepted models and so is the rise in human consciousness. Both trends are converging to awaken us to the fact that a more humanistic, inclusive and conscious approach to growing business (economy) and resolving social, political and ecological conflicts is the way to go forward.
*Research Source: Gallup, Conference Board, Nain, Strategy+Business, Bain, Bennis/Nanus, ComPsych
Business organizations and leaders as role models for enlightened leadership
Some of the best, brightest and courageous leaders have decided to create and play by the “New Rules of the Game.” Business becomes the playground to fulfill our deepest yearnings and realize our full potential. We don’t have to sacrifice personal values to achieve financial results. Business can be a place to have fun where individual effort and team work are rewarded and members of the team hold each other accountable. We bring the “whole person” to work. The new superstars of business are authentic individuals who combine a sharp intellect, professional knowledge and work ethic with a collaborative and inspiring leadership skill that demonstrates and values empathy, integrity, compassion, humility, emotional maturity and social and spiritual intelligence. These leaders are not only well trained and experienced in Business strategy, execution and operations but are adept at connecting at a deeper level and inspiring teams and organizations to superior performance. They integrate best practices in business with mastery.
Mastery is converting our greatest and deepest intentions to consistent and impactful actions. It is also developing the ability to demonstrate the toughest things to do, such as being truly transparent and authentic, detach from wanting to be right and accept criticism and praise evenly. Living in a state of inspired action, independent of external circumstances is what human beings have aspired to since the dawn of creation. Is there anything more important than this characteristic for a business leader, CEO or a corporate executive who is constantly pulled in different directions by the various constituents of the business and is faced with right versus right choices frequently?
Emotional Mastery helps a leader to treat adversity as an opportunity for growth and in developing a high degree of self-awareness to identify blind spots, self-esteem to accept the (intention to action) gap, self-confidence to admit it and self-discipline to work on it relentlessly. It takes courage to be authentic, requires us to be authentic to build trust and have self-belief and self-esteem to demonstrate compassion. These are the pillars of mastery.
We knew that mastery and enlightened Leadership principles were good for the soul and personal fulfillment. We are now recognizing that this is also crucial for sustainable long-term growth for business and could be the single most important differentiator for stellar performance, execution, innovation and effectively solving the most critical business challenges. Superior business performance and leadership effectiveness are directly connected to Self-Mastery.
Developing and sustaining an enlightened leadership team and organization is a process, not an event. There is no short cut to mastery and greatness. We have to bring practical rigor and execution discipline to the “soft” qualities of human dimension. The key is to integrate the human dimension with business processes to enhance their effectiveness.
Please read below for detailed explanation of the solution
Business leadership and organization as a role model
Inspire change through Enlightened Leadership
The leadership principles and management practices are, to a large extent, legacies of the industrial revolution. The picture below demonstrates the evolution from the early autocratic model to the democratic model of the information age to the enlightened leadership of the current times.
Please see slide #11 in the attached PowerPoint
IQ: Intelligence Quotient; EQ: Emotional Quotient; SQ: Spiritual Quotient
Enlightened Leadership (3.0) inspires the highest level of performance and effectiveness from Self, Team and (Business) Organization. It transcends (and includes) the traditional motivational practices based on security, fear, intimidation (1.0), recognition, achievement, self-centered ambition and greed (2.0) and inspires execution by appealing to the:
• Deep human drive for excellence, mastery and meaning.
• Yearning to satisfy the whole being – intellect, heart and spirit.
As business leaders we are always striving to get the best performance from our respective organizations employing the leadership style and skill that we are most comfortable with. The following leadership model helps us to explore the effectiveness of different leadership styles. This model is not meant to be treated as a black and white approach, it is a tool to help us understand and communicate better. Most of us do not follow one style all the time (we may in fact practice a little of each) but have a predominant style which we believe in and demonstrate:
1.0 Autocratic Leader: This leader instills fear, controls information and utilizes Machiavellian traits to elicit performance. He or she is primarily focused on utilizing and developing IQ and analytical skills. Personal ambition is the primary driver to attain a leadership position. Does not see the importance of EQ and the connection between personal and business leadership and is ineffective when not in a position of power. He does not place a priority on holistic development and is generally unhappy, stressed, fearful, and insecure. He is also likely to have a dysfunctional personal life.
2.0 Democratic Leader: This leader utilizes analytical and emotional skills, IQ and EQ. She is open, inclusive and motivates the organization with clear communication, fair compensation and a stake for its constituents in the outcome. She appreciates the importance of harnessing human capital; some personal ambition is involved in wanting to be a leader. He places a high degree of priority on physical and emotional well-being. Experiences moments of lightness, bliss and expansion in life but does not quite know how to expand and integrate this state of Personal Mastery into business.
Most of the visible and successful business leaders seem to be in this state. At times they fall back to autocratic style or spring forward to enlightened state but predominantly stay in this state. One of the leaders we worked with, “Andy,” is a good example. He shows great promise of becoming an “Enlightened Leader” in private but his organization and team rarely gets to see that side of him. He is kind, compassionate, full of life and inspirational with his family and friends. He switches to a primarily rational mode at work for fear of losing his edge. He had not found a way to integrate his emotion with intellect and compassion with passion. We suggested to him that he should not look at leadership as “either, or” model and that there is a more effective “3rd way.” For example, toughness without love breeds compliance and love without toughness could lead to apathy. As we mature emotionally, this 3rd way is a more natural state of being. Demonstrating this integrated approach has inspired and engaged his leadership team and helped the organization thrive beyond his wildest expectations.
3.0 Exceptional and Enlightened Leader: This leader believes in unlocking the full potential and utilizes analytical, emotional and spiritual skills. He or she takes democracy to its highest degree, respects and recognizes creative talent in everyone and empowers them to produce their best. Tough love and benevolent dictatorship is practiced when necessary. She inspires by appealing to the deepest and innermost human yearning. Service and not personal ambition is the prime motive behind accepting the leadership position. He becomes an inspirational role model by pursuing Self-Mastery and a noble purpose for the organization.
The basic premise is that Life and Leadership are inextricably linked and one cannot hope to achieve true and extraordinary “business success” without a spiritually fulfilling life. The beauty of this situation is that while we are pursuing the inner purpose of life – meaning and contentment – the outer purpose of stellar business performance is fulfilled. This leader inspires by example, which has a profound effect within the organization, in the business community and the society at large. Isn’t that what life is all about? Can there be a better and more fulfilling purpose for a business leader and for all human beings since we are all leaders of our lives?
Brian is the CEO of a medium size company. He is a brilliant man, works extremely hard and knows his business and market. Knowledge, intellect and hard work have been his mantra for success so far. When we met he identified three problems that he was facing: (1) he is unable to grow the company at the same pace (2) his leadership team was not collaborating as well as he had hoped to and (3) he is feeling stressed and burnt out. The good news I told him is that all of those issues are connected. He had relied heavily on his personal knowledge and skill. He did not empower his team and hold them accountable. Brian did not at times see the simmering conflicts in his team and at other times ignored them by taking decisions himself. He had been working extra-long hours to find solutions and did not devote much time to taking care of himself.
I met his leadership team members individually and quickly discovered that they were a collection of extremely bright and hardworking individuals who did not fully trust each other. They were not used to finding collaborative solutions. We embarked on a training program to resolve conflicts by having difficult conversations skillfully, authentic communication to build trust and making rapid decisions with accountability. We had them role play real-life situations, coached them individually and facilitated meetings to apply these techniques on the job. Brian summed up the success of the initiative by saying, “I now realize how important emotional mastery and wisdom is to be an effective leader, coach and an inspiring team player.”
Outstanding human beings, great souls and exceptional leaders from all walks of life have the paradoxical ability to demonstrate the following (seemingly mutually exclusive) qualities:
Passion - Compassion, Individualistic Drive - Altruistic Humility, Courage – Unconditional Love, Hardnosed – Inclusive, Accountable – Accepting, Dream Big - Be Present, Lead – Serve, Analytical – Emotional/Visceral, Relentless Drive – Detached from outcome, Attached to action – Detached from result, Present forcefully – Listen deeply, Argue the case - Seek other points of view, Negotiate hard – Be prepared to give in. When they have a point of view, they express themselves authentically and debate passionately, detached from the desire to win and to be right.
Please see slides #13 & #14 in the attached PowerPoint
This is what we mean by Enlightened Leadership (3rd Way). It really boils down to showing up fully as a whole person by integrating intellect, emotion and spirit (IQ + EQ + SQ). How do exceptional leaders differ from their counterparts in demonstrating some of the common leadership characteristics? For example, Vision: they take a much broader and inclusive approach to identify noble purpose; Courage: the basis for courage is self-confidence, self-esteem and love as opposed to fear or paranoia; Decisiveness: comes from integrating analytical and cognitive skills with emotional and visceral development; Judgment: wisdom and commitment to right action along with experience.
Spirituality and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ)
Being spiritual has no connection with religion, nor does it imply being soft on non-performance, two common misconceptions. In fact, it is the exact opposite – SQ is about taking right action and making the hard decisions in a truly objective, non-biased manner. It is the ability to consistently tap in to the innermost yearning for excellence, fairness, purpose and mastery that I believe is the common heritage of all human beings. Some of the “toughest – Jack Welch mode” leaders that we worked with felt that they could have been faster, more decisive and more objective in making difficult calls. They were certainly not short on intellect or “courage” in the traditional sense. What is required is aligning that with emotional maturity and wisdom to take Right Action. That to me is being spiritual; it has to be demonstrated in external behavior consistently, not occasionally. Another definition of spirituality that I like is our desire to be connected to and in service of something larger than ourselves.
Some of the most successful organizations and its leaders recognize that they could be a lot more effective and execute much better. Many of them feel that their financial success is being achieved at a personal cost – a lack of balance among physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. Organizational execution requires the ability to collaborate and to inspire people to perform. To truly collaborate requires us to connect at a deeper visceral level, to the heart and spirit. Team building, motivating and inspiring others certainly has an intellectual component, but the human dimension plays a very big and necessary part.
Spirituality is inherent in all human beings; it is working on being the best we can be and feeling a sense of joy, lightness and expansion in the process. We all have equal access to its experience – power and humility, bliss, peace, contentment, compassion and unconditional love. It is the deepest and highest desire and is what everyone ultimately yearns for. The quality of objectivity and inclusiveness that is expected of business leaders (to inspire high performance) is an example of spiritual behavior. Religion can be helpful in spiritual development but we have to be free from dogma and fanaticism to be truly spiritual. Spirituality unifies people and religion on the other hand does not have a great track record of unifying people. We all want to be ourselves and we want to show up fully at work and play – that is being spiritual. It is completely aligned with execution, teamwork, business performance and leadership effectiveness. Deep down none of us want to pretend to be someone else. We want to be consistently ourselves in different business and life situations. It is very stressful and ineffective to play different roles and to not show up fully.
While all of us are inherently spiritual, our spiritual intelligence (SQ) and spiritual development is different. This is true for IQ and EQ too – we all have a capacity to be analytical and display our emotions, but the degree of intelligence and emotional maturity varies and grows with practice. As we develop and mature emotionally, we move in to the domain of spiritual wisdom. As we grow spiritually, we enhance our emotional development which helps in further spiritual growth, mutually reinforcing each other. Let me explain.
Emotional intelligence includes such characteristics as accurate self-assessment, optimism, honesty, empathy, adaptability, self-confidence, transparency and interpersonal skills such as influencing and developing others, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration. Spiritual intelligence takes us deeper in to self-awareness, self-inquiry, gratitude, compassion, understanding of the ego and connecting our deepest innate desire and yearning in service of universal wellbeing. As our SQ increases, we develop the ability to see the big picture for what it is without “personal spin” and also the intellectual capacity to hold multiple perspectives. Which means as SQ increases so do our EQ and IQ. There are many research studies which prove this point. To unleash our full potential; IQ, EQ and SQ have to be equally developed. The reality though is that in business and professional settings, we do not get much training in developing our emotional and spiritual intelligence. The few programs that are available don’t generally connect them back to the realities of business.
By engaging in Leadership 3.0 practices we can accelerate the Shift of collective consciousness and become role models for the change we want to see. We will facilitate the rise of democracy, capitalism and human innovation to its natural and fullest potential. We can also dramatically impact personal leadership, team collaboration and organizational effectiveness. We do this by being our authentic self, showing up fully with intellect, heart and spirit. Please note that as we evolve, we transcend and include which means enlightened leadership includes the motivational aspects of the earlier models. For example, as mentioned before: toughness without love breeds rigid compliance and love without toughness could lead to apathy. Neither of them is as effective as tough love of enlightened leadership.
Can business organizations and business leadership be models for good governance or the way we run our business organizations also contribute to the crisis we are facing?
Business organizations (and their leaders) are very good in demonstrating efficiency, productivity and meritocracy and in taking a practical bottom-line approach. However most businesses and leadership teams don’t face the tough questions and feedback from their employees and stakeholders on important matters such as confidence in leadership, integrity, fairness and inclusiveness. If they were to take an anonymous poll, like we do about the leadership and the direction of our country, it wouldn’t look pretty. Does it make sense for smart, educated, hardworking professionals in business organizations to have as less power as they do in evaluating and selecting their leadership team, and in determining the strategic direction of the company? This may have been okay for the command and control model of the industrial age but not now. Can we truly unleash the full potential of an organization and inspire the employees and stakeholders to give their very best and be fully engaged without giving this degree of freedom and respect to their opinions? When even the poor and uneducated citizens of a democratic country are given the right to select their representatives in the government, isn’t it odd to see how little the opinion of employees matters to the leadership of a business organization? Can we afford to ignore it?
Business has traditionally not been a place to express deep emotion and unleash our heart and spirit. We figured that was best left for our personal life with friends and family. If we wanted to take a more direct and larger role in the wellbeing of the society, community and the world, we would get involved with a charitable, spiritual, religious or a non-profit organization. Business organizations and leaders are not particularly good at inspiring people to give their very best, inclusiveness, reverse accountability (employees evaluating leaders) and balancing stakeholder interest. This is obvious from the low engagement scores and high levels of stress. Is this compartmentalized approach still viable? Can we artificially stifle our natural expression at work? Can we afford to continue on the same path? Apparently not!
Some of the best, brightest and courageous leaders have decided to create and play by the “New Rules of the Game.” Business becomes the playground to fulfill our deepest yearnings and realize our full potential. We don’t have to sacrifice personal values to achieve financial results. Business can be a place to have fun where individual effort and team work are rewarded and members of the team hold each other accountable. We bring the “whole person” to work. The new superstars of business are authentic individuals who combine a sharp intellect, professional knowledge and work ethic with a collaborative and inspiring leadership skill that demonstrates and values empathy, integrity, emotional maturity and social and spiritual intelligence.
As explained in the book “Firms of Endearment,” organizations such as Amazon, Google, Commerce Bank, Whole Foods, UPS Johnson and Johnson and Southwest are generating emotional, social and financial wealth for all their stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, environmentalists, community, governments and shareholders. They pay their employees very well, provide great value to customers and have thriving, profitable suppliers. And the data is staggering: they had a return of 1646% over the past 15 years, compared to only 157% for the S&P 500 and 177% for the companies profiled in Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great.
Now these new breed of leaders and their business organizations can be the role models for enlightened leadership and become the agents for change that we want to see in our global socioeconomic organizations. Let’s talk about the four Ps of such organizations.
Purpose: Pursuing a noble purpose creates an exciting and fulfilling work environment. Employees are inspired to give their very best individually and collaborate towards an inspiring common purpose. As individual productivity and teamwork takes a quantum leap, so does business performance and innovation to provide the best offerings to the customers.
Let me give you a metaphor from life. We don’t pursue happiness; our experience tells us that the more we pursue happiness the more elusive it is. Happiness is a result, a by-product of leading a purposeful and meaningful life. Same is true in business; profitability and stellar financial performance is a by-product of working towards a noble purpose. We can say that profitability is a strategy to achieve a great cause, to fulfill a noble purpose.
Performance: A happy and somewhat paradoxical byproduct of pursuing a noble purpose is outstanding financial performance. Seen another way, outstanding performance is a strategy to achieve our noble purpose. In order to take this performance to an even higher level, we set ourselves internal benchmarks to excel in serving all our stakeholders. We measure employee engagement, customer satisfaction and community involvement because doing well here ensures superior financial performance. We also monitor how well we are doing in building trust and collaborating, resolving passive conflicts, making fast and effective decisions. These are the leading indicators that point to how well our performance is going to be.
Principles (Core Values): Almost all the organizations have nice sounding values. But the key question is: How effectively are they being followed in daily business transactions? Who developed them? Do these values reflect the aspirations of the organization? Do they fit the personality profile of the leadership team, so they can practice what they preach? Is there an incentive for diligently practicing our values? Is there a consequence for flouting them? Perhaps the most important question of all – we know it feels good to practice these values, how does it help in business performance? We address all these questions in detail, especially the connection between diligently following core values and excelling in performing business functions.
Processes: Having a Purpose and Values is good but is of no great “value” if they are not reflected in the daily activities and business processes of the organization. We help facilitate meetings, make decisions, resolve conflicts and engage in negotiations utilizing these values and techniques. It is not sufficient to talk about values or hang signs everywhere. Engaged people, disciplined management and operational processes are critical. We have to conduct our daily business this way and infuse service and excellence in the DNA of our organization. We have to hire and promote people that excel personally and professionally. The leadership team has to practice what they preach. In one of my most successful engagements, the President and the entire management team was engaged in learning, teaching and practicing Leadership 3.0 skills. The President and his executive Vice President were the best and most diligent practitioners. The president especially had a phenomenal absorption rate. I don’t say this lightly. I have been fortunate to be with, practiced and deeply studied some of the best leaders and thinkers the world has to offer.
Summary: It is a pretty simple concept: a noble purpose inspires employees to give their best and all the stakeholders to engage; living by our core values enhances personal effectiveness and team collaboration; establishing processes and monitoring our adherence to stated values and purpose improves performance. But apparently quite difficult to implement, if it were easy everyone would do it. Execution is what separates the best and brightest leaders and organizations from the rest.
Mastery – Inspired Action
Unlock highest level of Execution and Effectiveness
Mastery is converting our greatest and deepest intentions to consistent and impactful actions. It is also developing the ability to demonstrate the toughest things to do, such as being truly transparent and authentic, detach from wanting to be right and accept criticism and praise evenly.
We knew that mastery and enlightened Leadership principles were good for the soul and personal fulfillment. We are now recognizing that this is also crucial for sustainable long-term growth for business. Business organizations have been slow to adopt self-mastery and enlightened principles. One of the reasons perhaps is over reliance on intellect to solve business problems and a genuine concern (even belief) that emotions come in the way of objectivity, which could result in poor decisions and tolerating poor performance. In reality, there is a difference between being “emotional” and emotional maturity. When we say, “He is being emotional,” we imply that he is not being rational or objective. But in its truest sense we all have emotions, the real issue therefore is, are we emotionally mature to see beyond the personal connection and attachment in making a sound business decision?
In early stages of emotional development, people have difficulty separating personal relationship with professional assessment. The solution need not be to cut off emotion and rely solely on intellect which many of us tend to do in business. Some people are hesitant to develop social connections at work for fear of losing objectivity; others mistakenly assume that sharing or knowing personal information is necessary to develop a close working relationship. We remind our business leaders that neither is necessary and there is a 3rd way. As we mature emotionally and grow in wisdom we are not afraid to demonstrate empathy, compassion, love and simultaneously demand excellence and accountability by being completely fair and objective. This is emotional maturity, a sign of high EQ.
The other reason could be the confusion about the role of ego. A corporate executive once asked me, “don’t you think we need ego to be a strong leader?” This is how I responded.
What a leader, especially an enlightened leader needs is a high self-esteem, not an ego. A high self-esteem leads to a dignified, composed and understated self-belief and self-confidence. A healthy self-esteem also leads to humility and the ability to accept praise and criticism evenly. A large ego comes in the way of developing self-esteem and shows up as defensiveness, insecurity and fear. How can a leader inspire trust when he or she is insecure, defensive and operating from fear? A large ego also prevents us from assessing ourselves accurately, makes us ignore constructive and difficult feedback and even respond with denial and anger.
Conquering ego represents the ultimate victory and is the master key to enlightened living and leadership. In many cases physical death occurs even before the ego is vanquished. No wonder people would rather go to war than “lose face.” We go through life assuming ego is critical for survival, to conduct business, develop relationships and to be not taken advantage of. The truth however may be that the success we achieve is in spite of the ego, not because of it. For example when we negotiate a business deal, generally there are three possible outcomes:
- Lose – Lose: A dysfunctional approach involving low self-esteem.
- Win – Lose: Approaching it as a zero sum game, with a large ego.
- Win – Win: Low ego, high self-confidence and self-esteem.
Many thought leaders and action leaders (cutting edge CEOs, corporate executives and business leaders) agree that mastery and enlightened leadership principles help in enhancing execution and effectiveness. There is also general consensus on the values, behaviors and characteristics that represent enlightened leadership. However the mechanics of what it takes and how to get there has largely remained a black box. Many organizations engage in wellness programs in isolation with business processes and practices. Leadership 3.0 on the other hand is a blueprint of “Next Practices” and Practical steps integrating pioneering business practices with cutting edge work in neural science, human psychology and human potential. It is designed to push the envelope of human innovation.
Living in a state of inspired action, independent of external circumstances is what human beings have aspired to since the dawn of creation. Is there anything more important than this characteristic for a business leader, CEO or a corporate executive who is constantly pulled in different directions by the various constituents of the business and is faced with right versus right choices frequently? There are enough people to rely on to provide technical knowledge and professional expertise. How can he or she lead self, the leadership team and the organization to extraordinary execution, effectiveness and business performance? How can the basic business functions be performed even more effectively? Let us dig in to understand how mastery can help.
Some of the hardest things for human beings to do are:
- Always give your very best (Gratitude)
- Be truly transparent, authentic and vulnerable (Courage)
- Detach from wanting to be Right (Humility)
- Right action detached from Outcome (Presence)
- Accept Criticism and Praise evenly (Self Esteem)
- Be completely Inclusive, fair and objective (Connectedness)
Most of us know this intellectually, intend to act this way and several of us believe we are regularly acting this way. How do we know that we are truly demonstrating this behavior consistently in our daily interactions? Did we solicit honest feedback from those who know us intimately? We need to have a high degree of self-awareness to identify our blind spots, self-esteem to accept the (intention to action) gap, self-confidence to admit it and self-discipline to work on it relentlessly. This is Self-Mastery and this is what being spiritual is. It includes and goes beyond the domains of both IQ and EQ. These are qualities of being in higher states of consciousness (SQ). SQ is often considered the key to happiness and contentment in life. What is now being understood and appreciated is that it could be the single most important differentiator for stellar performance, execution, innovation and effectively solving the most critical business challenges. Superior business performance and leadership effectiveness are directly connected to Self-Mastery.
The single most important characteristic in building exceptional teams is mutual trust. And mastering the toughest things to do spawns trust and inspires collaboration. Another critical requirement in fostering great teamwork is to create conditions to transcend (and include when necessary) self-interest. The most effective way to accomplish this is to pursue a noble purpose and have a system where we evaluate and reward (or have a consequence) adherence to core values. This was described in the four Ps of business as a role model.
Action Leadership – Basic Business Functions
The basic building blocks of business are: Communication, Constructive Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Decision making, Strategy development and implementation, Coaching and Mentoring. When we conduct these functions more effectively we create better products and services, delight customers, sell more, become more profitable, you get the picture. Let’s say one of our core values is being “Authentic.” Let me elaborate on how communicating authentically and performing these functions well translates to improved business results.
Authentic Communication: In an organization we are always discussing ideas to improve performance of specific functions such as delighting customers, improving quality, reducing design time. Let’s say I make a suggestion and you think it is a terrible idea. How would you express that in the most constructive way? In our experience in working with teams, we notice people struggle with the either or alternative. We either respond bluntly (and tactlessly) at the pretext of being direct or bite our tongue and give a polite non-response, such as “it is interesting.” In extreme cases this becomes an Explode or Implode scenario.
By exploding directly we end up engaging in a battle of wits and ego. Being right and winning becomes more important than finding the right solution. On the other hand by being “polite” on the outside we implode internally for not being helpful or having the courage to say what we feel is right. This either or approach doesn’t serve the individual or the team in coming up with an effective solution. We practice a more effective 3rd way of refining our personal bias and toxicity and authentically expressing our concern. We express our concern with curiosity (not with certainty or judgment) along with suggesting an alternative option. We are authentic when our thoughts, speech and actions converge. When we are authentic and sincere, it shows, and there is a better chance of our suggestion being listened to. There is no guarantee that it will be accepted and implemented but we established the foundation for a collaborative discussion. This is usually one of our most popular sessions.
Conflict Resolution: I get concerned when I see teams that are polite on the surface and have issues that never get expressed openly. Many “good” teams and relationships suffer from this – they have “passive” conflicts that don’t get acknowledged and resolved. They choose to live with them and accept a mediocre or good enough performance or relationship. Teams with an autocratic leader or relationships with a domineering partner tend to fall in this category. Some of these leaders proudly proclaim that they have solid teamwork and don’t have time for silly, irrational conflicts. In the meantime precious time and productivity is being lost because the conflicts don’t get surfaced and people muddle through and work around the issues. We teach and practice the more effective 3rd way to engage in difficult conversations! We practice the skill of expressing our truth and acknowledging other’s truth. This is a game changer and life changer for many.
Decision Making and Judgment: Many of the leaders I work with place a premium on the value of quick and effective decision making. One of the most successful and decisive corporate CEOs that I know of humbly estimated his “hit-rate” on decision-making at 33%. How much is it worth for him and the company to improve on that? There is fascinating new science on making decisions. Research in neuroscience proves that people who are required to make quick and effective decisions – leaders, CEOs, airline pilots, quarterbacks, fire fighters – exhibit emotional maturity and strong intellect in addition to experience, functional skill and technical knowledge.
We used to think that a combination of critical thinking skills and not letting emotion come in the way is the key to making sound decisions. Historically most researchers embraced the cognitive model which believes that good decisions can be reached by a logical step-by-step, rational process focusing exclusively on facts. Our experience in the real world demonstrates that good decision makers rarely engage in this much of rational analysis. A smaller group of scholars believe that judgment is intuitive and most decisions are made with little analysis. We believe that sound judgment is neither cognitive nor intuitive alone but a more effective “3rd way” that combines these two elements with the personal belief and value system. Emotional maturity and wisdom helps great leaders to filter their judgments with a clear set of personal beliefs and values. This is crucial since a leader’s decision could make a multimillion dollar difference to earnings and profitability. A pilot, fire fighter and head of state’s decisive action can be the difference between life and death to the people involved.
As leaders we are also required to skillfully encourage decision making and hold people accountable. Leadership 3.0 is about combining intellect and knowledge with empathy, integrity and authenticity, the hallmark of a great, emotionally developed human being.
Strategy Development and Execution: Strategy sessions are particularly revealing – Are team members expressing their opinions freely? Are they disagreeing constructively? If we were to take an anonymous poll, would their opinion still be the same? We don’t recommend aiming for or forcing consensus. When we have a group of bright people, it is natural to have several great ideas and differences of opinion. We practice the “3rd way” approach of time bound, open exchange of ideas and reaching “operational consensus.” This means that every member of the team openly expresses his or her viewpoint and ultimately agrees to whole heartedly support and vigorously execute the final decision. When we get an opportunity to express our opinion freely, it is amazing how unattached we can be to our opinion.
Coaching and Mentoring: As leaders, coaching and mentoring becomes a key aspect of our job. Let’s face it; even the best among us have blind spots and emotional blocks. To be an effective coach, we have to help our leaders see and overcome their blind spots. How do we do this? Not by telling them what their problem is. We know what that does to friendships and relationships. As a boss you may get away with it in the short term but at a severe cost to your leader’s creative engagement and commitment. A more effective way is to ask insightful questions and engage in deep, visceral and non-judgmental listening. Many of us engage in silent and intellectual listening. We may not say anything but we are mentally busy with our thoughts, analysis and judgment. This is different from visceral listening that is deep, genuine, engaging and inspiring.
It is very tempting to offer a solution but a good coach knows that it will not be effective unless the person is motivated to seek and committed to act on the solution. This may sound simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. We have all been in frustrating situations where we gave or received well-meaning but unsolicited advice that made the problem worse. A skillful coach guides the leader to discover the answer by asking questions, listening deeply and offering perspective. If necessary, as a final step in the discovery process, the coach provides the solution by answering the question.
We may understand this process intellectually but to consistently implement it in complex, emotionally charged real life scenarios requires wisdom and mastery, i.e. an integrated approach combining intellect, heart and spirit (IQ +EQ +SQ), hallmark of an effective and enlightened 3.0 Leader.
One of the most critical and toughest requirements for a leader is the capacity to convert difficult situations to great opportunities and treat them as experiences for personal growth. There is a certain “unfairness” in leadership – we are expected to give our very best without complaining about the cards we are dealt and at the same time be understanding of our people who don’t live up to the same standards. While we have to treat adversity as our ally to build the emotional and spiritual muscles, we can’t push others too hard and too fast to do the same.
It doesn’t mean we have to accept or tolerate incompetence; we have to empathize with the emotional state of people we lead and help them overcome their fears, doubts and uncertainty. It is natural to feel anger, frustration and disappointment at times for any leader. The stress and loneliness comes from the difficulty of sharing and expressing these emotions effectively. A 3.0 leader refines these emotions and converts them to compassion, assertiveness and tough love. This cannot be faked; we have to genuinely feel it in our soul. We have to get comfortable and thrive in these circumstances.
Adversity and complexity is the way of life for a leader. You can never be free from it; key is to learn to be free in the midst of adversity and complexity. How does that look like? How quickly can we move to taking inspired action? There are typically three stages we go through:
Stage I: Disappointment, anger, frustration, despondency: Become paralyzed in a state of suspension, unable to take concrete action.
Stage II: Worry, stress, (perhaps even looking for revenge and redemption): Stress may drive us to take action.
Stage III: Fully accept the current situation and get to inspired action, free from the sadness of the past and worry about future. In this state, it’s not fear or stress which motivates, “presence” inspires action.
Getting to stage III in the shortest possible time is a function of spiritual intelligence. This is also the hallmark of enlightened leadership. Let us look at the characteristics and emotional dynamics that help us get to this state of inspired action and “presence.” It starts with full “acceptance” of the situation the way it actually is, not the way we fear or hope. We are then able to shift to “gratitude” for what we have, and the opportunity to do even better. This leads to “self-confidence” in our ability to come out of the situation stronger than ever and become even more resilient. And finally we get in to a state of “humility” since we know self-confidence could result in arrogance and derail us. This brings us to a state of fully alert “presence” ready to spring in to inspired action.
For a leader who is constantly dealing with challenges related to personnel, customers, partners, suppliers, board, advisors, investors, analysts, etc. is there anything more important than being in a state of inspired action all the time?
Adversity: When something seriously goes wrong, and it invariably does for all of us at some point, and when it appears like we have done everything right and nothing wrong, and when it seems clear that certain people, events and the world has conspired against us, we have a choice:
- Do the obvious thing: Get angry, upset, frustrated, disappointed and take corrective action.
- Do what is extremely difficult: Do not blame anyone or any event, fully accept and absorb the enormous physical and emotional pain.
When we choose the difficult option #2, something magical begins to happen. The stress and pain melts away, giving way to an enormous sense of peace and lightness in the heart. We dig deep for the root cause, take the high ground and choose a noble response. Doors begin to open and opportunities that we did not even dream of appear right in front of us. Our anger and sorrow shift to appreciation and gratitude, the “tragic situation” becomes the catalyst for a life changing transformation. We feel invincible yet humble, certain yet detached, passionate yet calm and flow through life acting on our deepest and truest yearnings and aspirations. Success and outcome seems imminent but we paradoxically do not care since we have already tasted the greatest success, “we are fully present now.”
When we absorb and overcome personal pain and see the other person’s perspective, the person who is perceived to have inflicted the pain, remarkable win-win negotiation becomes possible. We get what we want rapidly and we offer them what they need on a platter.
For way too long we cut off our emotional and spiritual dimensions from fully developing ourselves, our teams and our business organizations. That division is not natural and as we are finding out detrimental to execution and organizational performance. We talked earlier about the need to have a high degree of self-awareness to identify our blind spots, self-esteem to accept the (intention to action) gap, self-confidence to admit it and self-discipline to work on it relentlessly. We also talked about the courage to be authentic to build trust and the need for self-belief and self-esteem to demonstrate compassion. Let me give you a few more examples:
- Gratitude: How can we give our very best all the time? Only if we are grateful for what we have and be completely free of the concern for what we don’t have. Isn’t that the case?
- Humility: Is it possible to be humble without detaching ourselves from wanting to be right?
- Presence: Isn’t presence and commanding persona, the hallmark of a great leader? Can we be really present without being detached from the outcome? Can we be truly present if we have not got over the past? How can we win by not thinking of winning?
- Connectedness: Can we build a great team without being inclusive? Is it possible to be truly and completely inclusive (in thoughts, words and actions) without feeling the deep connection for all?
- Self-belief: Can we accept criticism and praise evenly without a high degree of self-belief and self-esteem?
- Compassion: Can we inspire and persuade teams to greatness with passion alone; don’t we need to integrate it with compassion?
- Right Action: Can we spontaneously perform right action that is required of great leadership without a high level of emotional maturity and spiritual wisdom?
These are the pillars of Mastery and essential leadership characteristics for building great business organizations.
We have to bring practical rigor and execution discipline to the “soft” qualities of human dimension. This is crucial to shift from where many leadership teams and organizations seem to be stuck. The “hard” business actions such as strategy development and implementation, decision making, negotiations are separated from the “soft” wellness programs. And these “wellness” programs typically do not have any direct connection to the daily business activities. The key is not to separate but to integrate the human dimension with business processes to enhance their effectiveness. We discuss behaviors that enhance and inhibit performance and practices to bring about lasting change.
Performance inhibitors: wanting to be “right,” forcing consensus, passive conflicts, personal attachments, preconceived notions and beliefs.
Performance enhancers: Authenticity, fairness, justice, objectivity, humility, compassion, transparency, generosity, tough love and inclusiveness.
Building great Organizations: Seven Next Practices
We work closely with the leadership team in a multipronged approach – group training, personal coaching, on the job facilitation, structured solo practice, peer coaching and team accountability. Following is a brief summary of the seven next practices we help incorporate:
- Achieve Leadership tipping point: This is rightfully #1 on the list. It all starts with the leadership team. If the leadership team is not fully onboard with building an enlightened organization, don’t bother with the other steps yet. A tipping point of leaders, especially the stronger and more visible ones have to walk the talk and demonstrate a high degree of authenticity to build trust and credibility in the organization.
- Develop and pursue a noble purpose: Great leaders and organizations have one thing in common. Their greatness and financial success is a happy and somewhat paradoxical byproduct of pursuing a noble purpose that extends beyond money and personal ambition. A more practical way of looking at it is that outstanding financial performance is a strategy to achieve the noble purpose. Pursuing a noble purpose creates an exciting and fulfilling work environment and its effect can be felt by everyone. As individual productivity and teamwork takes a quantum leap, so does business performance, creativity and innovation. The next section has three examples of noble purpose for business organizations.
- Align, balance and inspire all stakeholders: Many organizations struggle to balance the interests of all their stakeholders and probably believe it is not possible. The best and the brightest leaders and organizations in the world today have demonstrated that the most effective way to increase and sustain shareholder value is to align and balance the interests of all stakeholders. This approach comes from the core belief that business and economics is not a zero sum game. We can spend more money on employees, customers and community, and make a lot more in income and earnings. Serving customers doesn’t have to be the expense of over worked, under paid and underappreciated employees. Increasing profitability doesn’t have to mean squeezing suppliers and driving them out of business. Enhancing shareholder value should not mean polluting the environment and affecting the quality of life of its communities. Many leaders and organizations we talk to agree this may not be easy but is absolutely the right thing to do. This is also another great reason to have a noble purpose that rallies and inspires all stakeholders.
- Operationalize Values: Almost every organization has core values that sound wonderful and many have them visibly placed in lobbies, conference rooms and brochures. Is that enough? Do they work? Ironically, organizations that have been cited for legal and ethical transgressions had great corporate values. In our experience and study of organizations that do an outstanding job, we observe the following characteristics: (1) Establish values that are relevant and appropriate to your team and organization. Do not pick values because they sound good or they worked for someone else. (2) Core values are integrated in the daily business processes and operations. For example, if empowerment and accountability are values that are espoused and an employee comes to the manager for a decision or complains about a colleague without first trying to mutually resolve the issue, what should the manager do? Remind him or her about the values and send him back. (3) There is a short term incentive or penalty for adhering to or violating core values. Otherwise it is not deemed important enough. (4) Reward, hire, promote and take corrective action based on the degree of adherence to values, in addition to professional competence.
- Master the Human Dimension: Why is this so important? Because finally the “disconnect” between human nature and organizational structure is being addressed and removed. The rigid structure and processes of command and control are a legacy of the industrial age. They work well for compliance but come in the way of creativity, excellence, autonomy and mastery, which is essentially what the modern or postmodern informational professionals are seeking. When we look at organizations, we find that an overwhelming majority of employees are very bright, knowledgeable and work extremely hard. That is rarely the problem. And yet the same employees are not fully engaged and highly stressed. According to popular polls, less than 25% of employees work to their full potential; 55% have high levels of stress with symptoms of extreme fatigue and 42% have constant but manageable stress. Why? Some of the hardest things for human beings to do are also what it takes to build trust and inspire action and collaboration. While we know this intellectually, we struggle with putting it into consistent action. We have to develop a high degree of Self Mastery or Spiritual intelligence to fix this (intention to action and impact) gap. It includes and goes beyond the domains of both IQ and EQ. Being in higher states of consciousness is often considered the key to happiness and contentment in life. But what is rarely understood and appreciated is that it is also the single most important differentiation for Execution, Innovation and solving the most critical business challenges. In our experience and study of great leaders and organizations, Superior business performance and leadership effectiveness are directly connected to Mastery.
- Measure what counts: What gets measured gets done, the saying goes. We talk about integrity, authenticity, core values, corporate culture, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, social responsibility. How effective are we in measuring them? How important is adherence to these principles in being promoted to positions of power and authority? What behavior is being rewarded? It doesn’t matter how crisp and articulate we are in communicating our corporate culture if our leadership team is unable to back it up with consistent action. Organizations do a great job of measuring, what I call lagging indicators such as, income, earnings, shareholder return, market share and other financial benchmarks. How about measuring and monitoring the leading indicators such as decision making, collaboration and conflict resolution, employee engagement, social responsibility, etc.? Can we afford not to, if we are driven to build an organization that (a) believes in inspiring and balancing the interests of all its stakeholders and (b) realizes extraordinary financial performance as a result of pursuing a grand and inclusive noble purpose?
- Infuse Mastery in Organizational DNA: Earlier, we talked about the importance of mastery in leadership effectiveness. Great organizations nurture an environment where every job and every interaction becomes an opportunity to give expression to our creative genius. No matter what the role or what the position is, everyone can put their heart and soul in to each action. There is no need to wait for a dream job or a dream career, why not unleash your potential now? Even if our life’s purpose is different from the job we are doing, there is nothing stopping us from working with the same spirit and enthusiasm in our current job. Pursuing and inspiring mastery becomes everybody’s job. People are encouraged to fully show up and bring their whole person in solving issues, delighting customers and working with each other. We don’t want anyone to hold back. We challenge each other and everyone to free the mind, open the heart and unleash the spirit. Cross-functional implementation teams are formed for critical functions such as corporate culture, developing innovative products and services, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and community involvement. They do not settle for polite mediocrity or dysfunctional teamwork and instead proactively engage in difficult conversations to resolve active and passive conflicts.
Examples of inspiring Noble Purpose
Medium size financial institution: I was facilitating a discussion with the executive team on their personal dreams and professional goals for their very successful organization. This was the first time in the ten years they were together that they had engaged in a discussion which integrated personal and professional dreams. The result was dramatic. After a vigorous, heartwarming and enthusiastic interaction, it became obvious what they really wanted to accomplish. They came up with the following Noble Purpose.
Our organization becomes a vehicle to help its employees, customers, investors and all of its stakeholders to realize their dreams. We become a role model and best for our industry where:
- Employees are inspired and grateful for the opportunity to serve
- Customers are delighted to do business
- Investors are proud to be a part
- Regulators and analysts recognize and admire accomplishments
- Peers respect and try to emulate the success
- Community is appreciative
This company has been recognized as one of the most successful organizations in the country in a very difficult environment for banks and financial institutions. The leadership sees financial success as a byproduct of pursuing a noble purpose and as a strategy to achieve their purpose.
Division of a Fortune 200 global technology organization: The head of this division described his primary challenge this way, “I have a large team of extremely bright technologists and designers spread over nine countries with different cultures. Solving technical problems is the easy part, how can I keep them motivated, agile and collaborate towards a common goal?”
We discussed the need to emphasize a one-team culture that includes and transcends the local culture and individual goals. What is the inspiring vision or noble purpose behind which the whole team can get unified and energized? How can this team make a greater impact on the organization? Diversity is one of the core values of this organization. Can this division become the role model within the company in seamlessly merging cross-cultural teams from around the globe? We have to define (with the team’s involvement and buy-in) a challenge and common purpose that motivates and inspires them to be agile and give their very best. What seemed like a serious concern and a liability was turned around to be an inspirational purpose for the whole team to rally around.
Organizations dedicated to mastery are focused on what’s “best for” not necessarily what’s “best in.” In the process, they may become “best in” but it doesn’t matter. Every detail is considered to ensure that the symbols, systems and actions are consistent and in tune with the collective will of the people. Examples are: office space, perks, reward system, evaluation criteria and compensation structure. One of the companies I worked with had this goal to become the best community bank in their region. We reframed the goal to becoming “best for” the industry. The whole management team got energized to shake up the status quo and introduce processes and behaviors that encouraged flexibility, fun, rapid decision-making, accountability and other cutting-edge practices not typically associated with their conservative industry.
Leadership 3.0 is not just nice to have but must-have to thrive in the new socio-economic environment and to play by the new rules of the game ….
Enlightened Leadership Training and Coaching
Are enlightened leaders born or made? It’s not either, or - leaders are both “born” AND “made.” While we have to make the most of the deck of cards we are dealt with, we all have potential to be better than who we are showing up as currently. It would be unfair and inaccurate to say otherwise. Isn’t life a journey of learning and growing? Leadership starts with self, to help and inspire others; we have to practice self-mastery! I am a big believer in individual effort, we have the capacity to constantly grow, change and evolve with training, practice and experience, no matter where we start from. We are all born with specific gifts, some of us may have a superior capacity for greatness (just like some athletes are more gifted genetically) but it is of no good use unless we harness that potential. Some of us may have to work harder to develop those emotional and spiritual muscles. Some of the best leaders are not necessarily very naturally gifted; they just find a way to overcome serious obstacles and adversity and constantly stretch themselves to unleash their full potential. Adversity can be our ally. Our innate ability certainly matters but curiosity, openness and consistent practice can improve leadership qualities and effectiveness, as many great leaders we worked with and studied demonstrate.
The journey is more important than the end game. Enlightened leadership is like happiness and contentment. We do not pursue happiness; it is a byproduct of a meaningful life. Same is true with inspiring and enlightened leadership; it is a byproduct of a purpose that is larger than self and transcends personal ambition.
Professionals and business leaders have very less training in enhancing emotional intelligence and mastery. How do we develop qualities of enlightened leadership?
Some of us get lucky and grow up in environments where sacrifice and sharing is part of life. That experience helps us to understand ourselves (self-awareness) and connect with others (empathy). Most of the leadership training is behavioral in nature, which is required and essential but not complete. We dig deeper to understand the source of the behavior – what beliefs, values, mental models and frameworks shape our behavior. Understanding and intervening at the source has a more effective, lasting and consistent transformation. We also ensure that the behavioral training is integrated with resolving real business issues and challenges.
Cutting edge CEOs and leadership gurus agree that unlocking human potential through use of enlightened leadership principles is the key to improving business performance. A practical process of developing such peak performing business leaders and organizations has largely remained a black-box till recently. Decoding this black-box and bridging the execution gap between intent and impact has been my lifelong passion. I deeply studied and reflected on human behavior, worked with and for diverse business organizations from startups to Fortune 100 global corporations, practiced with eclectic global leaders and advanced spiritual masters. There are several specific, immediate and practical steps that can be taken. Let me name a few:
- Align and integrate personal life and professional life. We do not have to artificially separate these two aspects of our lives. Many of us, sometimes subconsciously, do not give expression to our emotion and spirit in professional life. This is a legacy of the command and control management where compliance was more important than creativity. It is no longer relevant at this time.
- A large portion of enlightened leadership is inner development. We have to go within ourselves and become self-aware of our viewpoints, positions, feelings, thoughts, behavior and actions.
- In addition to the solo practice of self-awareness, we have to actively seek out our blind spots by sincerely soliciting feedback from our peers, subordinates, superiors, family, friends, coaches and advisors.
- This awareness and intent has to be then converted to consistent action. How do we know if our actions are matching intent? Are they having the impact we desire? We check this by being mindful and present and by seeking feedback.
- A powerful technique to positively influence our state of mind is self-inquiry. It involves dispassionately observing our deeper thoughts without judgment. Let’s say, we have a tendency to be angry, impatient, be hard on ourselves and others, may be even feel envy and exhibit judgment at times. How can we reduce these negative mindsets? Start by being mindful of and by observing these feelings without any inner commentary. We don’t even have to know the source of these feelings; the neutral witnessing action dramatically reduces the negative inner feeling and the corresponding outward expression.
- Leadership development is a process, not an event. We don’t grow as much just taking in information by reading a book or online training. Converting our best intentions to consistent action and impact requires rigorous practice and discipline. A natural curiosity and learning mindset helps significantly, by approaching every interaction and event in our day as an opportunity for growth. Personal connections with our children, spouse and close friends help in improving sensitivity and empathy. Professional engagements enhance planning, organizing, communicating crisply and decisively. We will be more effective personally and professionally by combining the “best of both.”
- Leadership and business is a team sport. We have to surround ourselves with employees, advisors and coaches who embody the integrated approach of intellect, heart and spirit – IQ + EQ + SQ. We grow best as a team and make an exponential impact on the organization by learning, helping and pushing each other and by being mutually accountable.
- Develop the physical energy, enthusiasm and endurance to go the distance. I have seen way too many promising careers flame out and burnout. While it is wonderful to have well rounded leaders with balanced intellect, heart and spirit it is not sufficient without the stamina and staying power. We have to pay attention to our diet and engage in exercises that stretch our physical, emotional and spiritual muscles.
- The whole package of physical fitness, mental sharpness and spiritual wisdom is a critical leadership requirement to build great and enduring business organizations and institutions. For those individuals and teams that like to take a deep dive and an accelerated path to Mastery, we developed easy to practice technologies of consciousness. Many business leaders, corporate executives and individuals committed to experiencing and unleashing exceptional performance and deep personal fulfillment have benefited immensely from incorporating these practical techniques in their professional and personal lives.
Not content with 36 consecutive quarters of exceptional performance and profitability, the President of one of the most successful community banks in the country decided to raise the bar further. He embarked on an ambitious and audacious new Leadership 3.0 initiative to push the envelope and build an organization that is a role model and “best for” the banking industry. He inspired and included his entire leadership team in developing this vision of building a great organization where outstanding financial performance is a byproduct of pursuing a noble purpose and profitability is a strategy to achieve a great cause - to build an institution that all the key constituents: investors, customers, executive management, employees and the community are proud to be a part of.
The President actively participated in the initiative, leading by example, being transparent and vulnerable with the team and sharing his determination to show up fully and lead with intellect, heart and spirit. The entire leadership team got deeply engaged resulting in a dramatic shift in trust empowerment and accountability. This engendered unshakable loyalty to each other and to the noble purpose. According to the leadership team, this is not only the right thing to do; it is the best way to build a stable, viable and high performance bank in this turbulent macroeconomic environment and give back to the community and all its stakeholders.
Getting started is the key. We focused on getting quick wins on two thorny issues: a difficult conflict that had not been resolved and stale annual strategic planning sessions. We applied mastery principles and made an immediate and dramatic impact in both situations. It certainly helped that the President took the first bold step. Two skeptics turned out to be the most enthusiastic evangelists and champions of the initiative.
Ash Patel, President and COO of Premier Commercial Bank demonstrated exemplary courage in implementing the Leadership 3.0 initiative. He was the first one to step up to the challenge and admit that he can learn and develop new skills to become a stronger leader. He inspired his management team to be fully engaged with his example and by being transparent and vulnerable. It takes a high degree of selfesteem and selfconfidence to do that.